Science-- there's something for everyone

Monday, June 13, 2011

Germ Genie for keyboards

Computer keyboards are notoriously germy and difficult to sanitize. To solve this problem, Duncan Louttit (founder of Falcon Innovations) invented the Germ Genie, a standup UV light source with a built in motion sensor. University of Hertfordshire researchers have found the product highly effective in killing common bacterial pathogens.
The Germ Genie is placed behind a keyboard so that the UV light emanating from it can cover the entire keyboard. Once the device detects no movement over the keyboard for a minute, the UV light is activated for one minute. Ten of these one-minute treatments can eliminate 99% of E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus subtillis from a standard keyboard. Even more important, longer periods of Germ Genie usage also killed Clostridium difficile, a deadly and difficult to kill pathogen. The Germ Genie’s motion sensor turns off the UV lamp if someone resumes typing during the one-minute treatment cycle, preventing UV irradiation of the hands.

Germ Genie.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Hertfordshire.

It’s easy to see how this device could completely sanitize a home computer keyboard. Even if a keyboard is used by someone who is ill, there will be enough typing breaks throughout the day to sanitize the keyboard. However, the inventers of Germ Genie are hoping to market their device to hospitals and offices where multiple people use the same keyboard throughout the day. I’m not sure you’d get enough UV cycles between users to completely disinfect a keyboard. The way I understand it, the first person might have to type and take a quick break up to ten times before the next person used the keyboard. On the other hand, even one UV cycle significantly reduced the number of bacteria on the keyboard. Over all, it’s a great idea, and well worth further testing.